The Giants lost second baseman Thairo Estrada for over a month when he fractured his left hand on a hit-by-pitch two Sundays back. San Francisco president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi told reporters last week that Estrada’s injury could affect the team’s deadline outlook.
“We’ve got to at least evaluate what we have in the middle infield,” Zaid said on Friday. “Kind of just keep an eye on the market and see if there’s someone that can be impactful there and weigh that against continuing to give opportunities to Casey [Schmitt] and Brett [Wisely].”
With Zaidi and his staff examining things, let’s take a look at some potential options. The middle infield market is light on apparent trade candidates. Most of the available short-term solutions are having average or worse seasons. Perhaps a longer-shot name comes available (we’ll take a look at a few potential options at the back of the list), but the likely scenario is that San Francisco sifts through stopgap types.
- Paul DeJong ($9MM salary, controllable through 2025 via club options)
A quality everyday shortstop early in his career, DeJong fell off at the plate by 2021. He combined to hit .182/.269/.352 between 2021-22. The Cards optioned him to Triple-A last summer. He’s rebounded somewhat in 2023, putting together a .231/.302/.434 line with 12 home runs in 245 trips to the plate. Paired with his customary above-average defense, he reclaimed the primary shortstop job in St. Louis.
DeJong’s profile isn’t without flaws. He’s striking out in more than 30% of his plate appearances. His production has been very platoon-dependent. The right-handed hitter is mashing southpaws at a .269/.381/.500 clip but reaching base at a meager .275 rate against righty pitching. He could step in as a short-term replacement for the righty-swinging Estrada at second base while potentially taking a few at-bats against lefty pitching from Brandon Crawford at shortstop later in the year.
MLBTR’s Darragh McDonald recently explored the White Sox’s dilemma regarding Anderson. He’s an All-Star caliber shortstop at his best — a threat to hit over .300 with double-digit homers and steals. That player hasn’t shown up in 2023. Anderson has been among the worst regulars in the sport, hitting .223/.259/.263 without a single round-tripper.
Where does that leave Chicago? They’re 16 games under .500 and preparing to move short-term players. Trading Anderson now would be an obvious sell-low, but this could be their last chance to get a return at all. A $14MM club option that looked like a no-brainer a few months ago is now more borderline. If the Sox are leaning towards buying Anderson out next winter, then a trade would be advisable. He only has two MLB starts at a position other than shortstop but would presumably have to move to second base if San Francisco were interested in buying low.
Biggio and Espinal have been pushed out of the everyday lineup in Toronto. Whit Merrifield has taken over as the primary second baseman. Biggio is bouncing between right field and the keystone. Espinal is covering multiple infield spots off the bench.
Neither player is hitting well this season, though they’ve both shown better in the past. Biggio was an above-average bat from 2019-20 thanks to huge walk totals. Espinal was an All-Star a season ago and combines defensive versatility with plus contact skills. The Jays don’t have to move either but could find one of them expendable, particularly if they can bring back immediate pitching help in a trade.
Like Toronto, Baltimore enters deadline season as a buyer. The O’s have plenty of infield depth, however, so they could consider ways to deal from that surplus to address the pitching staff. Urías, 29, established himself as a regular last year when he hit 16 home runs while playing Gold Glove defense at third base. He’s hitting .261/.328/.396 with only four homers in 229 trips to the plate this season. He can play either second or third base and will reach arbitration for the first time next winter.
Frazier’s only two years older than Urías but much further along in his career. The former All-Star is actually Baltimore’s highest-paid position player at $8MM. He’s a bottom-of-the-lineup second baseman hitting .232/.299/.397 with 10 homers over 297 trips to the plate. The recent promotion of top prospect Jordan Westburg to join Gunnar Henderson in the everyday infield leaves fewer at-bats for the likes of Urías, Frazier and Jorge Mateo.
- Nicky Lopez ($3.7MM salary, arbitration-eligible through 2025)
Lopez is a light-hitting defensive specialist who can cover either middle infield spot. He’s a career .249/.312/.319 hitter in just more than 1800 plate appearances. Lopez is tough to strike out but has bottom-of-the-scale power and hasn’t homered since 2021. Public metrics consider him an above-average defender throughout the infield. He’s controllable for two additional seasons, but a last place Kansas City team could put him on the market this summer.
- Tony Kemp ($3.725MM salary, impending free agent)
Kemp is a clear trade candidate as a rental on a terrible A’s team. If Oakland can find any interest this summer, they’ll move him. A left-handed hitter, Kemp has only hit .197/.286/.283 on the season. He’s played fairly well of late after a dreadful first couple months, though. Going back to the start of June, the veteran has a .272/.359/.407 line with eight walks and only six strikeouts in 94 plate appearances. It wouldn’t be the most exciting acquisition, but Kemp could be a short-term option if the Giants want a stopgap until Estrada returns without sacrificing any notable prospect talent.
Torres is one of the few Yankees’ hitters with slightly above-average offensive numbers on the year. The right-handed hitting second baseman owns a .251/.325/.413 line with 13 homers over 375 trips to the dish. Torres has strong strikeout and walk numbers but modest batted ball marks. He has rated as an average defensive second baseman by measure of both Defensive Runs Saved and Statcast.
New York is a game back in the AL Wild Card picture. They’re likely to look for ways to upgrade the offense in the next few weeks. A Torres trade isn’t especially likely, but it’s not inconceivable. Oswald Peraza is in Triple-A and could soon be an option to step in at second base on a regular basis. The Yankees have short-term questions at third base and in the corner outfield.
The organization is also right up against the fourth luxury tax line at $293MM. They were reportedly reluctant to cross that threshold over the offseason; owner Hal Steinbrenner suggested a few weeks ago it wasn’t a firm cap but implied the team would want an impactful acquisition to go over that mark. Reallocating a few million dollars in a Torres trade could clear some flexibility for a subsequent acquisition.
The Cardinals would have to be blown away to part with either Gorman or Donovan. President of baseball operations John Mozeliak conceded yesterday the club would probably part with short-term assets. Gorman and Donovan have the chance to be core players for years to come.
Trading DeJong is the more straightforward path for St. Louis. They have enough infield depth it’s theoretically possible another club could sway them on Gorman, Donovan or Tommy Edman — likely by dangling high-upside young pitching. That’s probably beyond what San Francisco has in mind.